Friday, August 28, 2009

"Sinless, No; Sin Less, Yes!"

It is not possible in our earthly lifetime that born again Christians can become sinless (I John 1:8). It is more than possible, however, that we can consistently sin less (I John 2:1).

The New Testament redounds with the fact of how profoundly changed born again believers are in the center of our being. We are inhabited by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, our "inward man" delights in the law of God, and "there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (Galatians 4:6; Romans 7:22-25; I Corinthians 10:13). We retain a "law of sin" in our earthly faculties inherited from Adam, of course, and we shall not be delivered from "the body of this death" until we are glorified in Heaven (Romans 7:23-24). However, we are more than enabled to overcome through Christ, even as Paul promised, "Walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).

Do we believe this? Or have our too frequent sins and failures discouraged us and caused us to resign ourselves to the notion that the Christian life involves little more than wearing out the path to I John 1:9 for the reception of constantly needed forgiveness and cleansing? Too many believers settle into a life of scandalously low expectation of genuine godliness and faithful obedience to our Lord. Memories of sin are allowed to lead to expectations of sin, and a horrid cycle of unbelief, disobedience, and discouragement is established. Again, nothing in the New Testament would have us believe that this is the life for which the Lord Jesus died and rose again. And nothing more dishonors our Lord than to ignore His vibrant presence and disbelieve His certain promise that "sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14).

Again, we argue not for the possibility of sinless perfection, but for a life wherein we sin less. Believers must continually illuminate, encourage, and challenge each other with the "exceeding great and precious promises" whereby the delight of our redeemed spirits becomes the realized practice of our souls and bodies (II Peter 1:4). We must remind each other that our Lord is among us, and even more, that "the power that worketh in us" is "exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). We must be humble, loving, and forgiving toward the fallen brother, but even as we seek to lift him up, we do so with encouragement that he need not stumble again. And we do all by shining the spotlight on "so great salvation," and so great a Savior (Hebrews 2:3). Just as we have been reconciled by His death, promised Paul, so shall we be "saved by His life" (Romans 5:10).

If this sounds impossible, the source of our problem is exposed. We are focusing on ourselves, our past experience, and our present sense of inability rather than on our Lord, His past experience, and His present assurance of enabling. The Christian life is to be lived "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith," as opposed to looking to ourselves, the author and finisher of nothing (Hebrews 12:2). Of course, we do not ignore or deny the realities of our humanity, and if sin does in fact happen, we humbly, honestly, and without excuse agree with the Holy Spirit's conviction. We do not expect to sin, however, but rather live our lives in the Psalmist's affirmation, "My expectation is from Him" (Psalm 62:5). Again, such confidence will not result in our becoming sinless in this lifetime. But it will mean that we will sin less.

"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you:
for ye are not under the law, but under grace."
(Romans 6:11-14)

"The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free
from the law of sin and death."
(Romans 8:2)

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